Will the Lessons of Windrush be Applied to Home Education?

What’s been said?

Most people in Great Britain are now aware of the Windrush generation of people who emigrated as children from Caribbean countries between 1948 and 1971. On 16 April 2018 the Home Secretary, speaking in the House of Commons, apologised for the way they had been treated, describing it as appalling.

What may not be apparent to home educators is that there are important parallels between what has been brought to light through this issue and our freedom to educate our children without state supervision. Amber Rudd answered questions on this issue under three different headings: Topical Questions, Windrush Children and Biometric Residence Permits.

Why Does it Matter?

The second of these was in response to questions from David Lammy MP, and in it the Home Secretary stated, “I am concerned that the Home Office has become too concerned with policy and strategy and sometimes loses sight of the individual. This is about individuals, and we have heard the individual stories, some of which have been terrible to hear.” That is exactly what frustrates many home educators! From local authority officers through to peers of the realm. too many give the impression that that they do not want to know how individuals have benefited from HE; instead they want to make sure they have the “right” policies in place.

Later, in reply to Louise Ellman MP, Amber Rudd stated, “As I said earlier, this is about individuals whose lives have been upset and who need reassurance, and I want to make sure that they get it.” Likewise large numbers of home educators have had their lives upset by over-reaching officials and right now are looking for reassurance that the government will not pave the way for further intrusion. Is the Department for Education able and willing to provide the reassurance they need? Its recently announced consultation has had the opposite effect.

There are further parallels with EHE. First, no one knows how many of the Windrush generation have been in danger of deportation, “because they were not identified as such when they came here”. Why should they have been at the time? Why does the state need to keep a head-count of children, whether travelling with their parents or taught at home by them?

More importantly, Stuart C. McDonald MP raised “the pernicious and ‘hostile environment'” in the Home Office. In reply Rudd stated, “It is important to make a clear distinction between people who are here legally and people who are here illegally.” Later, in answer to another question, the Home Secretary said of this generation “that they do have the legal right.” So do home educating parents, but they are still being referred to as if they are criminals.

What can I do?

Home educators need to take hope from the positive outcome for those who brought this matter to everyone’s attention. To the public it seems to have come from nowhere, but it is something which some people have seemingly been working on for some time. The individuals directly affected by this bureaucratic bullying have enlisted the support of charities and importantly their MPs. Now it has borne fruit, in a similar way to our own efforts in resisting the Badman Review.

There is a need right now for the HE community to impress upon the government that we are doing nothing illegal we are helping our children, not abusing them. If home educators learn from their previous success, and from the success of this group of once immigrant children, then perhaps we can help those in the government machine which seems to care little for individuals to learn the wider lessons of the Windrush controversy.

It is important that as many as possible respond to the various consultations. For those in England who feel frustrated by them, the best way for you to make Education Secretary, Damien Hinds, aware that you think his department “could have done better” is by writing to your MP (see our guidelines  here) and asking them to raise your concerns with the minister.